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Recent Non-Fiction Reading, JoeLanta Second Appearance
Books I've read lately, for research or because I was curious. Also, discounted BATTLE FOR THE WASTELANDS e-books and I'll be returning to JoeLanta August 11-13 with a new book and STICKERS!
My Recent (Non-Fiction) Reading List
Although most of what I write is fiction, writing good fiction requires a lot of research. Even when I’m not deliberately looking for material for my books, I can find useful stuff in pretty much anything I read. Here are some books I’ve read in the last few months and what I’ve learned.
Waco: David Koresh, The Branch Davidians, and a Legacy of Rage by Jeff Guinn-I found out about this when it was new, possibly in a Wall Street Journal book review, and got it from the library because it sounded interesting. Back in middle and high school, when I was starting to become more politically aware and active, there were at least two documentaries released on the Waco siege that put the federal government in a very bad light. This book, which involved a lot of interviews with ATF and FBI agents who’d participated, seemed like it’d tell their side of the story.
I’m not going to get political here, but a lot of stuff I learned here is going into The Walking Worm, the second sequel to The Thing in the Woods. In that one, MJ-12 faces off against a cult centered around another unnatural being (not the same type of creature from the first book) and info from here will go a long way into how MJ-12’s internal operations work, how they prepare for their attack on the cult, etc. There’s also a lot of interesting stuff about how the FBI and ATF functioned in the early 1990s that might be useful for period pieces, as well as information that might pop up elsewhere — what the Branch Davidians’ compound looked and especially smelled like after the fire might pop up in other projects.
Hitler’s Monsters: A Supernatural History of the Third Reich-I first heard on an episode of the Monster Talk podcast, which examines things like Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, etc. from a skeptical perspective. The author discussed pseudoscience, occultism, Romanticism, etc. in Germany in the late 19th and early 20th Century and how that tied in with the rise of Hitler. He made the argument that Nazism is what happens when a society abandons reason to embrace conspiracy theories, belief in magic, and the like. It was a surprise to learn that occultism was a mass phenomenon in Germany and Austria in this period, not just the domain of a few rich weirdos or people using “what’s your sign” to introduce oneself at bars.
Sea of Gray: The Around-The-World-Odyssey of the Confederate Raider Shenandoah-This is about the last Confederate commerce raider Shenandoah, which actually kept fighting after the war ended due to being out of contact with its home government. One of its major targets was the Yankee whaling fleet active in the Pacific and some of this (along with the detailed description of Civil War naval technology) might show up in future Wastelands projects, especially one I’m kicking about called “War on the Whale-Road” set in the far northern reaches of the world years before the rise of Grendel.
The Aftermath: The Last Days of the Baby Boom and the Future of Power In America-Author Philip Bump discusses the Baby Boom generation and predicts what will happen as that generation fades. Even though this isn’t the usual type of book I read, it was sitting in the library’s new-book section and looked interesting.
War-Sebastian Junger, the author of The Perfect Storm, spent a lot of time embedded with U.S. troops in Afghanistan. He made the film Restrepo, which a family member who served in Afghanistan recommended I watch, and then wrote this book. It’s an interesting look at what it was like serving in one of the most violent places in Afghanistan — a valley near the Pakistani border that no government in Kabul has ever really exerted authority over and serves as an entry point for foreign fighters. I listened to a library audiobook on the Libby app, which I recommend people with library cards get so they can borrow audio books. It’s especially helpful for long drives.
The End of the World Is Just The Beginning-Author Peter Zeihan predicts a major geopolitical shift — that will destabilize much of the world and kill or impoverish billions — is coming. Even if you don’t buy the whole argument (I don’t), there’s a lot one can learn from this book about a variety of topics, including global supply chains, food production, the negative effects of China’s one-child policy, etc.
The Lost History of Christianity-When I was in high school and college, I was fascinated by the Nestorians, a group of Christians kicked out of the Byzantine Empire who spread the faith all the way to China and Japan centuries before the Age of Exploration brought European Catholics to the Far East. There is a whole Christian world that (Western) Christians are largely ignorant, a world that, due to violence by people ranging from the warlord Tamerlane to the Ming Dynasty of China to (less intentionally) the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, largely no longer exists. :(
The Vanishing: Faith, Loss, and the Twilight of Christianity in the Land of the Prophets-Written after the Iraq War, the Arab Spring, and the Syrian Civil War, this is about the decline of Christianity in its original homeland. It takes trends explicit in the 1990s (see From The Holy Mountain below) and shows how they’ve gotten much worse in the 30-odd years since then.
The Morning They Came For Us: Dispatches From Syria-A lot of interesting information about the Syrian Civil War specifically and war in general, as well as Arabic and Islamic practices. It discusses just how ugly this war is — war in general is awful, but the Assad regime is monstrous and a lot of the rebels aren’t very nice themselves.
From The Holy Mountain: A Journey Among the Christians of the Middle East-This book is a bit dated, written years before the upheavals kicked off by the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The author weaves together encounters with the remaining Christian populations of the Middle East with Byzantine accounts of those same places and it’s really interesting. Some of the anecdotes look really familiar, so I might have read it before.
Battle for the Wastelands Discount Today
As part of an experiment with promo stacking, my steampunk military fantasy Battle for the Wastelands has been reduced to $0.99 for e-book starting 7/6 and running to 7/13. This is the first book in the series; Serpent Sword is the second and “Son of Grendel” is a companion novella set about a year earlier.
The same discount applies in Great Britain for Amazon.co.uk users as well.
If you’ve already read Battle, “SOG,” and especially Serpent Sword, could you review them? Good or bad, the important thing is getting the review numbers up in a situation where a lot more people’s eyeballs will be on it.
I’ll Be Vending at JoeLanta 2023
If you’re a fan of toys and comics and GI Joe in particular, check out JoeLanta 2023 August 11-13. It’s at the Hilton Atlanta Northeast in the suburb of Peachtree Corners.
This will be my second time attending. I’ll be at Table T-4, which you can find on the vendor map here. I’ll have Serpent Sword here for the first time, which given how the two-for-$20 deal for the previous books in the series Battle and “Son of Grendel” was my most popular product last time might be of interest. I’ll also have stickers based on the Thing cover, some comics I’ve read and would like to re-sell, and the older inventory — Thing, The Atlanta Incursion, Battle, “Little People Big Guns,” “Son of Grendel,” and Flashing Steel, Flashing Fire.
Also, there will be another show going on at the same hotel — GooCon, which is dedicated to molding, casting, and special effects. Back when I wanted to work in movie special effects, I would have loved to visit something like this. JoeLanta is selling tickets to both shows.
So mark your calendars! I look forward to seeing people.
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